My doctor’s waiting room is a busy, bustling place, a sort of grand central for a huge group of docs. It is generic and impersonal, with forgettable blue chairs and crumpled magazines. When there, I fixate on my Blackberry and let the world around me dissolve into background noise.
The other day was different. Forced by a waning battery to find other amusements, and too afraid of germs to touch anything, I sat back and took in my surroundings: a young woman tried to calm a crying infant; a man with long legs nodded off; two women whispered and laughed.
And then there was the elderly couple. A stooped man with white hair and a pronounced limp, he pushed a woman in a wheelchair toward my area of the waiting room. After securing the parking brake on her chair, he lowered himself into a seat beside her. Seconds later, the woman began to babble. While her face remained expressionless, her incoherent chatter grew in volume and urgency. Her distress was unmistakable.
The old man turned toward the woman and began stroking her cheek. He didn’t say anything, he just stroked, his palm brushing ever so gently over her pale skin. He gazed intently at her, never once looking away. She, in turn, stared ahead at some faraway spot – or perhaps she wasn’t seeing at all.
Gradually, the woman’s babbling subsided. Like a sated, content infant, she cooed and gurgled softly. And the man continued to stroke.
I had to force myself to look away, to give these people the privacy they deserved. But I desperately wanted to continue watching. The man’s simple gesture was the purest, most beautiful expression of love I’d ever witnessed. Two withered beings, though the capacity to think and reason had clearly left one of them, remained so powerfully connected as to transcend words.
When my name was called, I cast one last look at the man and woman, she cooing, he stroking. Their image stayed with me long after I’d left the doctor’s office. It is with me still.